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Unforced variations 2

Filed under: — gavin @ 1 January 2010

Continuation of the open thread. Please use these threads to bring up things that are creating ‘buzz’ rather than having news items get buried in comment threads on more specific topics. We’ll promote the best responses to the head post.

Knorr (2009): Case in point, Knorr (GRL, 2009) is a study about how much of the human emissions are staying the atmosphere (around 40%) and whether that is detectably changing over time. It does not undermine the fact that CO2 is rising. The confusion in the denialosphere is based on a misunderstanding between ‘airborne fraction of CO2 emissions’ (not changing very much) and ‘CO2 fraction in the air’ (changing very rapidly), led in no small part by a misleading headline (subsequently fixed) on the ScienceDaily news item Update: MT/AH point out the headline came from an AGU press release (Sigh…). SkepticalScience has a good discussion of the details including some other recent work by Le Quéré and colleagues.

Update: Some comments on the John Coleman/KUSI/Joe D’Aleo/E. M. Smith accusations about the temperature records. Their claim is apparently that coastal station absolute temperatures are being used to estimate the current absolute temperatures in mountain regions and that the anomalies there are warm because the coast is warmer than the mountain. This is simply wrong. What is actually done is that temperature anomalies are calculated locally from local baselines, and these anomalies can be interpolated over quite large distances. This is perfectly fine and checkable by looking at the pairwise correlations at the monthly stations between different stations (London-Paris or New York-Cleveland or LA-San Francisco). The second thread in their ‘accusation’ is that the agencies are deleting records, but this just underscores their lack of understanding of where the GHCN data set actually comes from. This is thoroughly discussed in Peterson and Vose (1997) which indicates where the data came from and which data streams give real time updates. The principle one is the CLIMAT updates of monthly mean temperature via the WMO network of reports. These are distributed by the Nat. Met. Services who have decided which stations they choose to produce monthly mean data for (and how it is calculated) and is absolutely nothing to do with NCDC or NASA.

Further Update: NCDC has a good description of their procedures now available, and Zeke Hausfather has a very good explanation of the real issues on the Yale Forum.

1,394 Responses to “Unforced variations 2”

  1. 151
    Matthew says:

    145, Steve Fish: You are dissembling.

    No I’m not.

  2. 152
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Matthew asks, “If it is true that the increase in CO2 is mostly due to anthropogenic emissions, how is it that the fraction of the total that is anthropogenic has remained constant?”

    Huh? Where on Earth did you get this idea? The proportion of C-12 has risen monotonically throughout the period we’ve been able to measure it. Are you perhaps misunderstanding Knorr?

  3. 153
    Ray Ladbury says:

    First, low-level clouds would have to have a significant negative feedback to bring CO2 sensitivities down to levels where there was no concern, and there is zero evidence of that. In fact, since we cannot determing the sign of the feedback here (which would have to be due to changes in the clouds), it probably isn’t all that significant positive or negative. Note that the title of the piece suggests the feedback is positive.

    As to Wegman, that is now history of science, not science. Mann et al. 98 is now of interest primarily because it was the first paper to use multi-proxy techniques and PCA. It has been supplanted by several other, better reconstructions, including Mann2008.

  4. 154
    Todd Friesen says:

    98, thanks Tenney for the link. It is helpful to find other people doing the same types of things I’m doing. I’ve posted in the newest topic there.

    #131, David, thanks for your comments too. The article you linked appears to be the type of thing I’m looking for, and it appears to be understandable too.

    Regarding the 10 year solar lag, I would reference Usoskin 2005, found here, I found the link from Skeptical Science’s article on whether the sun is causing global warming:

    I took another glanced at Usoskin, and realized that the data regarding sunspots and temperature is decade averaged, which is done to minimize the solar cycle impact. Usoskin found the highest correlation with a 10 year lag between decade averaged sun spots and temperature.

    And perhaps this is an answer to my question too. A 1.5 year lag might correspond with non-adjusted data, and a 10 year lag might form when the data is detrended for the 11-year solar cycle. Though, there could be something else I haven’t considered.

    It’s something I want to be aware of in modeling. It may impact model predictions, particularly if the solar cycles are changing in intensity.

  5. 155
    Ernst K says:

    Tom Dayton,

    Your link is broken. I think it should be (not

  6. 156
    Edward Greisch says:

    Unforced Variation: Can you make a simulation of a spectrometer experiment that runs in Java on almost any computer? It seems to me that it might help to show them how the infra-red trapping effect of CO2 gas was measured way back in the 19th century. It wouldn’t be as good as giving people the hands-on experience with real 19th century or 20th century hardware, but it might help. Ideally, every high school student should replicate the original experiment. Since most high schools are not that good, RC needs to make up for the average high school education.
    The simulated experiment should be runnable on RC or downloadable from RC.

  7. 157
    Gerry Beauregard says:

    I’d be curious to hear RC’s take on the 1974 CIA report ( that supposedly shows there was a scientific consensus that the world was cooling. It seems to be getting a lot of coverage in the denialosphere…

  8. 158
    Eli Rabett says:

    Edward, #156 Spectra Calc does the job

  9. 159
    dhogaza says:

    The Greenhouse effect is mostly caused by the glass in a greenhouse… which we don’t have surrounding the earth. So the only thing that will retain heat is clouds… which would reflect the radiating CO2 light… right? What is frustrating is that Increased CO2 in the atmosphere is caused by increased temperatures. The warmer it is, the less water can retain the dissolved CO2. So the effect of warming is increased CO2 in the air…regardless of CO2 that is released by mankind. I don’t see the models accounting for this, either that, or I am not seeing it properly… any suggestions?

    Gene Madison … you have two choices here …

    1. Learn to read, at a layman’s level, enough basic physics to understand why your post is stupid (and be quiet while learning).

    – or –

    2. Post nonsense that makes it annoyingly clear that you don’t have the least understanding of the science involved, in which case you’ll be met with either laughter or derision (or both).

    Think hard about which category you want to be bin-sorted into, and study, study, study and learn or post ignorant crap accordingly.

  10. 160

    #157 Gerry Beauregard

    70’s COOLING… AGAIN!!!!!!

    Though the document is not verified you should note that it states in the beginning:

    “…the views and conclusions contained herein are those of the author and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official position, either expressed or implied, of the Central Intelligence Agency.

  11. 161
    Gar Lipow says:

    I have a question, one not related to the denialism debate. As long as denialist propaganda is out there I’m glad you are there to rebut it. But recent events in Copenhagen raise some questions climate science might throw some light on.

    1) How hard is it to measure greenhouse gas concentrations and greenhouse gas emissions, and how granularly can we measure them
    A) For example, in terms of concentrations I understand that this is pretty uniform planet wide – that once methane, CO2 and so forth are releases they get distributed pretty uniformly within a short time, so that concetration in the atomosphere is pretty much the same shwerever you measure it, perhaps subject to a time lag. Mostly correct? Vastly oversimplified? Completely wrong?
    B) Emissions – Again I will put my question in the form of a statement, because I think confirming a correct statement or explaining what is wrong with an incorrect one often brings the explaination into sharper focus. We can measure emissions to some extent directly via sattelite and instruments especially with a broad scope. That is, for an area the size of the U.S. or China, we can determine annual emissions fairly well just based on sattelite and instrument data. To some extent this may even apply to large sub-areas like Wales or Southern California. But if we want to measure emissions on a really granular level, say factories or farms, or even cities then we can’t rely on this kind of reading and have to depend on things like records of fossil fuels burned, land use changes and so on. Is the first true – that we can measure emissions over broad geographical areas decently even if we don’t have good fossil fuel consumption records or land use change data? And is it also true that for granular measurements at the factory or farm or neighborhood level we do need this kind of consumption record?

    Question 2) A great deal of argument has taken place over whether we need to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees celcius or 1.5 degrees celcius from 1990. What is our total remaining carbon equivalent budget for a 2 degree temperature rise? What is our total remaining carbon equivalent budget for a 1.5 degree temperature rise? How does this compare to actual annual emissions?

  12. 162
    CM says:

    My question at #35 about any implications of Knorr’s findings for coupled carbon-cycle models got answered inline at #95. Thanks. And yes, on second try I see that everything I wondered about is there in IPCC fig. 7.13 (but darn, it took this layman a long time to figure out how to read it).

  13. 163
    Edward Greisch says:

    158 Eli Rabett:
    is too “advanced” for the “students” I had in mind. It is too difficult for the average high school graduate. Spectralcalc requires thinking and knowledge on the part of the user. Don’t use wave number. Stick to wave length. Show the wavelengths graphically. Pre-set the spectrum to be covered. Let’s add a cartoon little professor that does the experiment for you and makes all of the choices for you. The little professor needs to be dressed up like Tyndall and should speak like Tyndall, as long as he is easily understood. “Tyndall” should have “apparatus” that looks like it could have come from 1859. “Tyndall” should do enough experiments to demonstrate the difference between air, oxygen, vacuum, CO2 and water vapor. After “Tyndall” has finished, allow the student to try it with dry nitrogen, dry CO2 at different pressures and wet CO2. Have the student “ask” “Tyndall” to do the added experiments via dialog boxes.

    Thanks for the URL and the clarification. PS: It needs to be part of RC’s web page.

  14. 164
    Garrett says:


    Iteresting point. 1974 Technology and Scientific Knowldge was so much better than we have today.

  15. 165
    Garrett says:

    I meant #157 :) How about the Bucks :)

  16. 166
    Shills says:

    Sry if this is a distraction. I am getting the feeling that skeptics can maintain the argument that there is no consensus on the IPCC’s predicted impacts of AGW because most agreement statements that so many scientific orgs put out only say they recognise ‘significant’ or ‘mostly’ AGW but nothing more; nothing about the adverse consequences. Just an interesting point.

  17. 167

    DW: What people did not like about the Nixon tapes was the obscene tone of superiority. Same for Climategate, and RC (but I do love Gavin).

    BPL: Let me remind you that the people who went to jail over Watergate WERE THE ONES WHO DID THE BREAK-IN. The Democratic National Committee didn’t do any jail time.

    DW: As for the symmetry, my yes oh dear. Are you unaware of the fact that the game is a draw? Bit of a scrum actually and as of now the skeptics have the momentum. Push boys.(The fact that hell and DC are both freezing over helps a bit.) I just call them like I see them.

    BPL: You must be seeing them through rose-colored glasses, then, because the evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of AGW theory and I’m not aware of ANY serious evidence against it. Why don’t you cite some of the alleged evidence against AGW, instead of just gassing about it?

  18. 168

    Gerry Beauregard,

    The CIA also invested millions in “remote viewing”–locating important Soviet military and intelligence sites through clairvoyance. Their grasp of science has never been very good.

  19. 169


    I think Gene is honestly uninformed rather than trolling or being ideological. He is clearly going by what he knows and politely asking if he’s right or not. So please give him a break for now.

  20. 170
    James says:

    Fortunately, the folks at Science Daily are open to making corrections. I emailed the editor about the misleading headline and they have now corrected it:

    [Response: Good for them! – gavin]

  21. 171
    Deech56 says:

    RE Ray Ladbury

    As to Wegman, that is now history of science, not science. Mann et al. 98 is now of interest primarily because it was the first paper to use multi-proxy techniques and PCA. It has been supplanted by several other, better reconstructions, including Mann2008.

    Ray, the problem is that you live in a reality-based world, where important pioneering studies are updated and conclusions are strengthened by new and more complete data. ;-)

    But you know the comeback to your excellent point, right? “Mann2008 used bad proxies” “But if those proxies are removed, the results hold.” “But then then latest proxy temp (~1994) is not the highest.” “But real temps are higher than they were in 1994.” “That’s HadCRUT; need to use UAH.” and so on…

    Point out that climate theory does not rely solely on the hockey stick and get accused of changing the subject. Rinse, repeat.

  22. 172
    Jiminmpls says:

    #159 dhogaza

    I don’t think it is fair to attack Gene. He appears to be sincere. Others made it clear that he was not on the right track and directed him to sources of information without insulting him.

    Now, if he comes back with bs about the models being wrong, scientists being corrupt, etc., THEN a ferocious counterattack will be fully warranted.

    David Wojick is a conspirator.
    Matthew is one of the brainwashed minions.

    Gene is just a regular guy who making an attempt to understand the fundamentals of AGW.

  23. 173
    Bill says:

    re# 144 and others; Peer review needs to be demonstrably more independent with public declarations of ‘conflict of interest’. We have to improve the public perception of the science & scientists to really make progress in getting the message across…

  24. 174
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Matthew @141: There is also a review of the hockey stick published by Wegman et al in Statistical Science.

    Matthew, you might want to read up on how Wegman et al basically bastardised Raymond Bradley’s work to conform with their preconceived conclusion:

  25. 175
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bill@173, There is absolutely no indication that there is anything wrong with the peer review process. If anything, it lets too much crap through. When I do a review, I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the author unless what they have done is demonstrably crap. Even then, I often try to salvage some germ of good research that they could emphasize in a rewrite. I do not think I am peculiarly beneficient in that regard.

  26. 176
    John E. Pearson says:

    172: I agree. Many regular posters here are WAY too sensitive. Insulting people at the drop of a hat is simply wrong. People who post questions here have an extremely broad range of education with regard to climate science (and everything else). Questions ought to be encouraged. If some one asks the same question over and over and over so that it becomes patently obvious that they are trying to spread disinformation, by all means insult if you must, but don’t insult people just because you’ve heard the question before. Real scientists ask “What if … ?” all the time. If you do that here there’s a not insignificant chance that you’ll be attacked. Such attacks stifle free communication.

  27. 177
    Chris H says:

    I’ve been defending science and the ipcc against the hack attack on a forum, but they kept coming with tidbits until finally they came with one I could not answer: the claim on the 2035 himalayan glacier reduction in an IPCC report seemed to have slipped in via a WWF/New Scientist loop, with an apparent mixup of facts on glaciers as a result. Does this mean the IPCC reports’ claim for being peer review is not valid, how should one read the reports now, etc.
    I really would like you or desmogblog to say something about this. I have collected links to and quotes from the relevant reports and articles if you are interested.

  28. 178
    Ken W says:

    Gerry Beauregard (157):
    “supposedly shows there was a scientific consensus that the world was cooling”

    John Reisman (160) already gave you some excellent links to dispel the myth of any scientific consensus of global cooling. But I’d like to add a few points.

    1) The world WAS cooling slightly from the mid-40’s to the 70’s. The CIA report, however, is addressing 1 – 5 year climate (or weather) forecasting, not long term changes.

    2) Page 27 of that report shows that a 2-day meeting reached a consensus which included: “A global climate change is taking place”. Notice that the words “global cooling” and “global warming” are both missing.

  29. 179
    Bill says:

    We know that. However, the perception outside the group here in the public domain is that all is not well with the process, and its here that the battle for public hearts and minds is being lost. Because something is OK today, it doesn’t mean that it should not be looked into and further improved

  30. 180
    Completely Fed Up says:

    But there’s nothing that can be done against such propoganda, Bill (179). That isn’t for scientists, it’s for politicians.

  31. 181
    Completely Fed Up says:

    JEP wibbles: “Questions ought to be encouraged.”

    But do you encourage your children ETERNALLY asking “why?”?

    How many times has gavin had to inline a link to the ModelE GISS code, to use one example?

    People are querying based (at the very best) on what someone else has told them without them asking the “why” to their statements.

    So do you keep answering the “why?” until your child runs out of breath?

  32. 182
    Completely Fed Up says:

    The point being how many times have such “honest questions” been pointless haranguing?

    Quite a lot. The answers are a short google away.

  33. 183

    #176 John E. Pearson

    Geez, yet another politeness discussion…

    My experience in the thread is that the regulars are very polite to those with sincere questions that are genuinely interested in learning.

    They are also very good at spotting memes that have been repeated ad infinitum over the years.

    They are also good at spotting those denialists who just discovered RealClimate and just popped in to say the climate scientists are all wrong because (insert common long-debunked ridiculous meme here)

    They are also good as spotting the more nefarious, hey you guys are polite so climate scientists must be wrong about AGW straw-man arguments.

    Sincere questions are not only encourages, they are the most welcome type of questions. I believe most here recognize the difficulty in understand the complexities of the climate science as well as the complexities of the debate and confusion campaign.

    I would ask you to understand that being wrong is simply being wrong. I have asked dumb questions in here too, simply because I did not yet know where to look and it did not matter to me how I was pointed to the information. I admit I can be an idiot and don’t really know all that much. I am trying to piece together the verifiable peer reviewed work and responded to work to assure that what ends up on the OSS site is pretty darn solid; I also add what that work reasonably implies for the future. In other words, if I’m willing to ask a stupid question (realizing that is a relative point), I should not be afraid of the answers I receive.

    Your point is well taken i believe by regulars here, but understand their experience level in spotting denialists and parsing them form sincere questioners… and no one is perfect.

    I believe the frustration rises sometimes as we all contemplate the problem of the time factor. The costs of inaction are reasonably understood to be tremendous in human and economic terms as meaningful action is moved further into the future.

  34. 184
  35. 185
    Jinchi` says:

    Bill @179,

    The solution to someone spreading false rumors that you beat your wife isn’t for you to hire a marriage counselor.

  36. 186
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ever hear the old saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

    Peer review ain’t broke. First off, who is more likely to know whether a technique, dataset or theory is useful than the people actively trying to solve problems in that field? Second, and perhaps more important, if an article is dreck, only a few researchers have it inflicted on them rather than having the whole community waste time on it. Third, most reviewers tend to be pretty lenient about letting articles through if they have any merit whatsoever. Fourth, if a bad article does get through, then it mostly sits there like a dog turd on a New York sidewalk. Scientists can identify the things that are useful in understanding their field.

    So, I ask you: How would you improve on the process? It is not as if climate science has a dearth of ideas. It’s not as if the denialists are making great (or in fact, any) progress with their own ideas (or lack thereof). What’s broken? And if you are saying “the public trust,” well, why should we let ignorant food tubes who are looking merely to justify their complacency dictate how science functions?

  37. 187
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Chris H:

    “… the WWF report which was compiled as a review article from work by scientific institutes in India, Nepal and China. The article contains tables, graphs and more than 200 references. ….

  38. 188

    Dear Gavin,

    Thank you so much for the link:

    [Response: Wrong. And the Woody Allen prize for the least informed use of a Marshall McLuhan quote goes to…. – gavin]

    I have never seen Annie Hall — as a country girl I have assiduously avoided movies about neurotic urbanites, but perhaps now I will rent the DVD since truly that was a very funny scene! (and apt)

  39. 189
    Hank Roberts says:

    More clarification:

    “Clarification of results of GRL paper
    Ummenhofer et al. (2009) What causes Southeast Australia’s worst droughts? Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L04706, doi:10.1029/2008GL036801
    The implications of our work (Ummenhofer et al. 2009) have been misunderstood in some media commentary, with some reporters asserting we have discovered that south-eastern Australia’s recent “Big Dry” is not related to climate change. This is not correct….”

  40. 190
    John E. Pearson says:

    181: Did you actually read my post? It’s one thing if someone asks the same question over and over and over and it’s another entirely if someone new comes along and asks a question that’s been answered repeatedly. The new person presumably hasn’t seen all the answers. Maybe they should’ve googled and maybe they shouldn’t have. This is a major site for learning about climate. You shouldn’t try to discourage people from learning. If you want to convince people that global warming is happening and that it is serious I can assure you that insulting them is not going to do it.

    Beyond that: you don’t know why people are querying. I know that for certain because I’ve been attacked on here for asking specific questions and they most certainly weren’t based on what someone else told me. I asked for where the key reference was that set 30 years as the time scale on which “climate” is defined and Hank Roberts asked me if I needed an elementary statistics book. Someone else actually provided me with an interesting and useful reference:
    Could I have found it via google? Sure but more than likely I’d have given up first.

    Somebody got irate with me for wondering what the consequences of polar thaw would be for the biological pump. I wrote something like “I have no idea what polar thaw will do to the biological pump.” The only response was something like “If you have no idea why bring it up at all?” This kind of attitude stifles communication.

    dhagoza wrote “be quiet while learning”!!! WTF? No one seeking information should come here and ask a question? Only those who have finished learning should be permitted to speak? Those of us who are still learning should sit silently and learn from the illuminated ones? This is an asinine attitude.

  41. 191

    I was also upset at how dhogaza handled thatexchange.

    It is not easy to tell who is sincere, who is lazy, and who is malign; nor is it easy to tell who is sophisticated, who is posing, and who is confused. It is not only your own impression you need to worry about but also the impression of third parties reading the exchange.

    Please read my very first blog posting. My blogging career started with a very similar (albeit somewhat more prominent) controversy on RC.

  42. 192
    SecularAnimist says:

    Matthew wrote: “… we do not know what selection mechanisms created the current distributions of talents like intelligence, musical and mathematical abilities in humans … So we can’t predict what is going to happen to those talents in the upcoming 100 years.”

    Right. Which is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of the situation with anthropogenic global warming, where we DO know what mechanism is causing the current warming, and we thus CAN predict with quite a lot of confidence what is going to happen as a result in the upcoming 100 years.

  43. 193
    Bill says:

    re #180.
    There is much we can do ! As scientists ,we must get smarter at communicating in a succint way that gets the public onside with us.
    The last thing needed is for anything to be left to politicians. Public opinion based on our well presented information holds the key and we need to get out of this defensive mindset widely shown on here,stop the childish name-calling and look like professionals to the outside.

  44. 194
    Doug Bostrom says:

    John E. Pearson says: 3 January 2010 at 10:47 AM

    I think many regulars here have become hypersensitive to groundless assertions initially disguised as questions. The pattern is familiar, something along the lines of “I’m new to this debate, a bit of a fence sitter, but I have a question about BLAH”, with “BLAH” being one of a myriad of misconceptions. When an attempt is made to clear up the misconception, the person bringing the “question” digs in and begins defending his/her disguised assertion.

    What finally exhausts patience is the repetitive nature of whatever “BLAH” might be, plus perhaps annoyance with the lazy and some would say malicious nature of the deception involved.

    “Chris H says: 3 January 2010 at 10:47 AM” looks like a variant on another tiresome theme: “I believed in AGW until I heard BLAH.” I’m guessing from the signs on display that Chris imagines he’s going to drive a fatal spike into a plethora of climate diagnostics with this single issue. “All the science is bad because [plug in triviality].”

  45. 195
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Gene Madison says: 2 January 2010 at 7:20 PM

    Gene, you really need to read this:

    If you’re not a “history buff”, don’t let the title dissuade you. Once you’ve read it, you’ll have an excellent grounding in the topic.

  46. 196
    Kirk says:

    Why is it if you dont belive in man made climate change you are classified as an idot or worse. One of the main reasons I canot accept your veiw point as absoulte truth is your arrogance. No matter how much research and data you come up with the fact will remain is that no one realy knows.

  47. 197
    Tim Jones says:

    Regarding today’s Washington Post – Chris Mooney op-ed:
    “On issues like global warming and evolution, scientists need to speak up”

    One good way to do this is for knowledgeable RC posters to branch out from preaching to the choir and post to the comments sections following such items as Mooney’s to denialist’s screeds in the popular press. The anti-science crowd needs to be balanced off with a preponderance of the truth in the media most people read.

    In any case thanks to all the posters here for the intellectual ammo needed to share in the effort to bring the truth of dangerous climate change to the public.

  48. 198

    #183 Reisman

    Missing word alert!

    They are also good as spotting the more nefarious, hey you guys are (not) polite, so climate scientists must be wrong about AGW.

  49. 199
    Comletely Fed Up says:

    Tim jones hasn’t read many of the posts here when he states: “branch out from preaching to the choir”.

  50. 200
    Hank Roberts says:

    John, if whatever you’re referring to above was the first time you asked, then I apologize. I shouldn’t have asked you whatever it was that offended you unless people had been trying for a while to explain the basic point that Robert Grumbine and Tamino both teach.– and I should’ve pointed you to the explanations of how to decide whether a signal is detected in noisy data.

    (If you’d been persistently asking why exactly 30 and what single paper defined that, then I may well have suggested you needed to understand the basic statistics to understand why it wasn’t the right question.) I don’t recall; as always, a direct quote and cite to a source will help everyone when pointing out something I got wrong. I’m just another reader here like you are, and certainly do get educated by others.